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High school football in Georgia roars back—boosters hoping COVID doesn’t crush the season

Friday night high school football returned across the state with precautions and some problems.

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Friday night was the night many thought might not come true - Friday Night Lights “2020” debuted, and Georgia’s beloved football season is underway.

But it comes with some pandemic precautions and problems, too.

Some schools canceled Friday’s games because of COVID on the teams. Some schools came roaring back on the field but trying to be careful about it.

Parents, students, players, and fans understand what’s at stake, in addition to their health. Follow safety rules, they say, or COVID could crash the whole season.

At Kell versus Walton in East Cobb County, ticket sales were limited on purpose to reduce the crowds and support social distancing.

Some in the stands did stay apart from each other and wear masks. Others - not so much.

But those who spoke with 11Alive believe that everyone is hoping to save the football season by not spreading the virus.

“I think everybody out here wants to have a football season and wants to have a long one,” said Jennifer Stephens, whose daughter, a senior, is a cheerleader. “So they’re going to take every precaution they have to make sure that happens.”

“I think this is going to work out fine,” Jeff Hill, the father of a football player, said, “as long as we can just do what’s expected, as far as just following the guidelines.”

Brandy Hester, whose son is a football player, said she is not worried. 

“I’m high-risk, so I understand. But I do feel that all the precautions that they’ve put into place, that we’ll be safe," she said. "Especially since it’s outdoors and everything.”

Still, parents like Karen Buckman are staying away and keeping their children out of sports, for now, saying there's too much of a risk for them.

“My issue isn’t with the school, it’s with the Georgia High School Association," she said. "The state should’ve called this and not put it on each county to decide. GHSA not commenting on number of players missing from each team playing tonight due to COVID quarantines.”

She wants transparency, lower COVID numbers, overall, and zero positive cases on her son’s team at school.

“I support my Eagles, they’re my alma mater, as well. I support all the parents. I’m not judging anybody for their decisions," she said. "It is a math thing. It is a numbers thing ... There are a lot of other factors, I get it. Families are different ... It’s a multi-layered situation." 

"But I think we could all do well with treating each other, giving each other, a little bit of slack on the situation," she added. "Treating each other with a little bit more kindness and understanding, and maybe not turning it into such a divisive political-type issue ... Definitely we’re hoping to go back in January (to in-class learning and extra-curricular activities) and resume everything as normal."